Three principles of ethical business practice taken from Proverbs 22:

  1. Reputation: A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed better than silver or gold (v4).
  2. Humility: Humility and fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life (v4).
  3. Generosity: A generous man will himself be blessed (v9).

Good stewardship demands that we invest our life where there is the greatest return.

In October 1999, in New Zealand, some 300 pilot whales died – stranded on a deserted beach. It was later discovered that the whales had been pursuing a large shoal of small whitebait and in the relentless chase and frenzy that followed the small fry had lured the ‘big fish’ to their deaths. There is a good business lesson to learn here, and that is, don’t be continuously chasing the small fry all the time because: (1) they never satisfy. (2) You can end up running out of steam for relatively insignificant gains. (3) You can end up on the rocks! And (4) the bigger fish always escape to be caught by someone else!

R. Ian Seymour

Business is a God Idea: In the agrarian economy in existence at the time Proverbs was written, the material welfare of the people depended upon production and trade of grain. A farmer who withheld grain committed a serious enough offense to invoke a curse. A farmer who sold grain committed a worthy enough act to invoke a blessing (Proverbs 11:26). Production and trade was God’s primary method of delivering the means of material sustenance to people. The principle remains true today. Our economies are much more complex, but a modern business is the equivalent of the ancient farmer. God still uses production and trade to deliver material sustenance to people, enabling them to flourish.

In common with every human institution, business is marred by sin. All of us can readily point to examples of greed and exploitation of people and the environment, but it is wrong for us to conclude that business is not a sacred pursuit. Business is a God idea and is included in God’s great plan for redemption of the world! God is looking for Christians who are prepared to make business their mission in life. A business producing goods or services, helping people flourish, activating biblical principles in ethics and justice, and contributing to the common good by supporting the local church financially and paying taxes to the government is a business after God’s own heart! Business is thoroughly a godly pursuit. When businesses engage in production and trade ethically and justly, there is blessing for the whole society.

Rod St Hill

Rod St Hill, Bible on Business, reading plan on YouVersion, day 14 of 31

A Customer is the most important person ever in this office,
Whether in person or by mail.
A Customer is not dependent on us,
We are dependent on him.
A Customer is not an interruption of our work,
He is the purpose of it.
We are not doing a favour by serving him,
He is doing us the favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.
A Customer is not someone to argue or match wits with.
Nobody ever won an argument with a Customer.
A Customer is a person who brings us his wants.
It is our job to handle them profitably for him and ourselves. (Anon)

Complacency is Costly: The sinking of the Titanic serves as example of the dangers of complacency, which in this case resulted in some 1500 men, women and children losing their lives. You will remember that Titanic was the ship that sank on her maiden voyage, in 1912, after hitting an iceberg. Titanic was considered by her owners, the White Star Line, and also her insurers, Lloyds of London, to be unsinkable. In fact, so complacent were they of Titanic’s invulnerability that the ship was allowed to sail with only enough lifeboats for half the people on board. When the accident happened, at 11:40pm on April 14th, there was very little in the way of commotion among the passengers, who were simply told that there was a minor problem which would cause a short delay. The ship’s orchestra carried on playing, and passengers continued to socialise and make merry in the comfortable saloons.

When eventually the order was given to man the lifeboats, many passengers refused to leave the warmth and comfort of the ship’s saloon, preferring instead, to believe that the ship wasn’t in any real danger. The thought of venturing out onto the icy, cold Atlantic Ocean in a lifeboat at the dead of night initially seemed preposterous to many passengers. Ironically, the first few lifeboats pulled away only half full, and the rest of the story, as they say, is history! Indeed, complacency is costly, and no more so than in business.

R. Ian Seymour

R. Ian Seymour, excerpt adapted from Maximize Your Potential

Drop a frog into a pan of hot water and it will immediately try to jump out. Drop a frog into a pan of cold water, heat it up, and you end up with boiled frog! –– You can’t afford to be complacent.

[Jesus] proceeded to tell a parable (…) because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’

Luke 19:11-13 ESV

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23 ESV

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV

Use honest scales and honest weights.

Leviticus 19:36

Business is like an automobile. It won’t run itself, except downhill.

Being late for a customer appointment is as good as saying: ‘I have no respect for your time’.

“To be successful you need to put your heart in your business and your business in your heart.”

Thomas Watson (1874-1956), founder of IBM Corporation.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

John Welch

A motorist on a quiet country road accidentally ran his car into a ditch. Try as he might he couldn’t get the car out and so he asked a local farmer for help. The farmer obliged and hooked up the car to his blind mule, called Big Tex. The farmer then cracked his whip and called out, “Pull Clyde, pull.” Then he cracked the whip a second time and called out, “Pull Billy, pull.” Finally, he cracked the whip a third time and called out, “Pull Big Tex, pull.”

The blind mule duly obeyed and pulled the car clean out of the ditch. Now, Of course, the motorist was extremely grateful but also a little curious, so he asked the farmer why he had called out the names of Clyde and Billy. “Well,” said the farmer. “Big Tex is afraid of hard work. If he thought he would have to do it all by himself he wouldn’t have even bothered trying.”

There are many people in this world who act the same way. People who are frightened of hard work; who refuse to take the lead and won’t even consider trying to ‘go it’ alone. Instead, they complain about their rights and shout about things being unfair. What businesses need are people who are willing to stand out from the crowd; people who are willing to take the initiative, people who work to make a difference and not simply work to make a living.

When we separate the word, business, into its component letters, B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S, we find that U and I are both in it. In fact, if U and I were not in business, it would not be business. Furthermore, we discover that U comes before I in business and the I is silent – it is to be seen not heard. Also, the U in business has the sound of I, which indicates it is an amalgamation of the interests of U and I. When they are properly amalgamated, business becomes harmonious, profitable and pleasant. (Anon)

What you don’t measure you can’t manage. Don’t expect improved results if you don’t inspect the process.

“Consultants are people who borrow your watch to tell you what time it is and then walk off with it.”

Robert Townsend, management guru and writer

What’s your U.S.B. (unique selling benefit – for the customer)? Make the invisible visible.

“Get into the business of capturing and keeping a customer.”

John Hayes

“I am the first to admit that it is much easier to follow a pioneer than to be a pioneer.”

Sir Richard Branson, British entrepreneur

Business is a lot like tennis; those who don’t serve well end up losing!

Turnover is vanity – Profit is sanity

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

All things being equal, people will do business with other people that they like. All things not being equal, they still will.

A free lunch is only found in mousetraps.

(Attributed to John Capuzz)

Complacency is so costly that no business can afford it.

R. Ian Seymour

Complacency Costs: The story is told that one day the wise and learned old Tortoise challenged Hare to a race. Now, this would not normally be much of a race, as a hare can, obviously, outrun a tortoise. But, as I’ve already said, Tortoise was a very wise and learned fellow and, although he knew that Hare could easily outrun him, he also knew Hare to be a very complacent chap. Upon hearing the challenge Hare fell about laughing but then, eventually – after realising that Tortoise was serious – he accepted.

The route was decided and the first to the finishing post was to be the winner. When the starter sounded Hare set off at a roaring pace and left Tortoise still standing in the blocks. After about a mile, Hare looked over his shoulder, but Tortoise was nowhere to be seen. Hare smiled to himself. It was a hot summers day, so he decided to stop and rest for a while under the shade of an old oak tree. Hare, knowing the race was as good as won, and feeling more than a little self-satisfied, decided to take a nap.

Meanwhile, Tortoise plodded on and on. By and by, he came across Hare, who was now fast asleep in the shade of the big oak tree, and, without making a fuss, he quietly passed him by. When eventually Hare woke up, the sun was beginning to set. He became alarmed at how long he must have slept for, and wondered if Tortoise had overtaken him without him knowing about it. At full pace, Hare set off again and headed towards the finish, but as soon as the winning post came into view he saw Tortoise ambling across the line to win the race.

And the moral of this tale once again, is that if we become over confident and too self-assured we can also become too blasé, too casual, too relaxed which is to say that we enter, not so much the comfort zone but the danger zone!

R. Ian Seymour, excerpt from Maximize Your Potential

“If you lose a customer you lose in two ways: One, you don’t get the money, and secondly, your competitors do!

Patricia Fripp, author & speaker

“Do not abuse a competitor. It is a confession that his business is injuring you.”

Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) Author & Magazine editor

There was once a man who owned a barbers shop in a small town for several years. He had a regular clientele and business was good, so good, in fact, that the competition moved in just a few doors away, in an attempt to poach his customers. At first the old barber was not unduly worried about loosing his regular customers to some “new kid on the block”. But then the new competition undercut the barber’s prices and began an aggressive marketing campaign in an effort to gain market share. They completely blitzed the local area with leaflets and press advertisements and posters’ promoting all hair cuts for just £5 a head. Customers began flocking to the new shop and so in an effort to turn the tide, the old barber set about a counter offensive. He knew that all the customers must literally pass by his own front door in order to reach the new hairdressers, so he put up a great big sign in his own front window, which simply said, “WE FIX £5 HAIRCUTS!”

Here is another similar story about another small businessman – a retailer – whose shop was threatened with closure because of competition from a large department store. The big store had plans to move into the area and so they began to buy up all the surrounding properties. The local businessman, however, was adamant that he wouldn’t sell. In fact, he wouldn’t even enter into negotiations, so the larger department store got heavy handed and threatened to put him out of business. Eventually, they attempted to make good their threats. They went ahead and built around him extending out far and wide on both sides until the little shop was completely hemmed in and practically lost. When the big opening day arrived the department store put up great big banners announcing, “Store Now Open.” The local businessman countered with a banner of his own. His stretched the entire length of his store and in big letters it announced, “WAY IN.”